Solitude and Community

I was sitting this morning with the post-resurrection scenes in John 20 with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, and especially with Thomas when I was surprised by the gospel writer (John) interrupting his gripping narrative. If it were a movie, there would be a freeze-frame with this voice-over:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come (continue) to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have Life in His Name.” Jn.20:30-31

It would have been enough for me to stay with Mary and Jesus in the Garden –or with the disciples in that locked room, or with Thomas in his doubting against all hope because it was all so impossible enough to stay with their bewilderment and dismay, their relief and confusion, their anxiousness, doubt, and wonder—that is enough to live with for a while.

But I was moved by John’s interruption of the narrative at this point because I felt his grasp on my shirt collar that pulled me into the Story. The inclusion surprised me, much like the way the Oromo surprised us at K_____ they put a robe upon our shoulders to honor us and made us part of them. Their story became my story that day in Ethiopia.

It was that kind of pull that I felt when I hit verse 31. At this point, the story is not only about Mary and the other disciples. The story is also about me. About my moving from wanting to believe to believing that Jesus is God’s Christ, and mine; that I may have Life in His Name—in His character and realty.

Unlike Thomas who doubts against all hope until he can see to believe, I hope against all my doubts that believing, I may see, and clearly, my Lord and my God. And I pray for his Life to be realized in me.

John interrupted his narrative because the whole point of writing it was for my sake—or to borrow from Ruth Haley Barton’s chapter title: For the Sake of Others. Like John, she gets the point that is beyond writing the narrative, beyond practicing Silence and Solitude:

“…. the practices of solitude and silence do, in time, bring us full circle—back into life in the human community. Whether we have been away for a half an hour of solitude, and an extended retreat time or have dropped completely out of sight for a whle, God, in his time, does eventually bring us back to the life he has given us. Perhaps nothing in our external circumstances has changed, but we have changed, and that’s what our world needs more than anything. Without pressing or pushing or trying to do great altruistic deeds, we discover that much that happens in solitude and silence ends up being ‘for others’—as paradoxical as that may seem.” Pg. 131

In some ways, it relieves the guilt of “not getting anything done” by our practice, because, after all it ends up being for others, particularly the others that our life is lived in closest proximity with. And after it has its effect on us, it may even change them. And change our families, our work places, and eventually our world. I am hoping for that, I am looking for that, I am believing for that.

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